I’ve always had a complicated relationship with food. As a kid, I liked to snack like every other child and would be told to finish my dinner if I wanted any desert. However as I look back, I realize that my relationship with food changed as my mental health has changed through the years. I started developing depression when I was in high school and food became a comfort to me. It was always something that I knew could make me feel better. So I ate. A lot. I would be constantly eating if I could. I almost always had a snack near by me at home and I would be eating two or three servings of whatever we were eating for meals. I would ask for two sandwiches at lunch because one was not cutting it. I needed food. On the rare occasions that I couldn’t get lunch in or a snack after school, I was not a happy camper. I would be pretty moody, weak and just restless. I would get really anxious. Now, that continued all through high school and in my first year of college. I wasn’t gaining any weight so it wasn’t a big deal. I would get comments from friends and family every once and a while, but I really didn’t care. I knew that I felt better with food in my hand than I did without.
Now, if you read my mental health story, you may remember that I had about 6 months where I wasn’t able to eat much due to a nerve sensitivity caused by my anxiety and depression. This was such a difficult time for me for many reasons, but a lot had to do with food. I loved to eat and snack. It was extremely sad for me to not be able to do something that I felt safe doing. Something that made me feel comfortable. And people noticed. My mood was low and when I told people that I couldn’t eat much, they would say “that sucks, I know how much you liked to snack”. I woke up staring at all of my favorite foods knowing that I could only eat three or four bites of cereal, or a few cheezits. I was miserable. I realized how much I was defined by food, as people knew I was constantly. It was a long 6 months. When we finally found a way to prevent my sensitivity, I basically went insane. I ate everything that I hadn’t been able to for so long. But, it wasn’t long until my unhealthy attachment to food would return. I was so happy that I was able to eat that I did not care what anyone said to me about it. But, it became a bigger problem that I could have imagined. It became that I had to be eating something almost at all times. If I could be eating, I would be. I would be in meetings with my boss searching for candy or granola bars in his office. If I didn’t, I got mad. And not just regular mad. I would feel rage. If I didn’t eat something every hour, you would not want to cross my path because I would knock down to find candy. It was really bad. What we learned was that it was a side effect of my medication, so the rage eventually went away. But I still ate and ate. When I was depressed, I ate. When I was anxious, I ate. When I was bored, I ate. Anything I was feeling, food was the solution. In a lot of ways, it still is, and not with good food either. When I’m at home by myself, I’m almost always eating. It still gives me some sense of security and satisfaction, especially if I’m depressed. I absolutely snacks and treats and sugar. Food will always be there.
As my anxiety has grown and changed over the years, I realized that eating has a significant effect on it. If I don’t eat every few hours, I notice that I am more likely to have a panic attack. When my stomach is empty, it usually hurts and gives me anxiety. When I haven’t eaten and am in stressful situations, its extremely likely that I will be very anxious. It absolutely sucks because I have to eat every few hours and I usually snack in between. I eat before I go to work, lunch at 11, snack and tea at 2 or 3, snack when I get home at 5, dinner and some kind of sweet at night. Its not healthy but its become so bad that I can’t function if I don’t. Unfortunately, that is just how I have adapted to help control my anxiety.
I am hoping that over the next few months and years, I can redefine my relationship with food. As I work on my mental health as a whole, this is an aspect I am hoping to focus in on and really examine. Now, I know that my eating habits are bad without factoring in mental health, but I believe it is blown to bigger proportions because of it. I would really love for one day where I don’t need to eat every hour because of fear of anxiety attack. Cheers to that!